Kukishin Ryu

From Blog – Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo 武神館國際連光明道場 by bkronline

Recently a few people had read my posts about the Kuki family and noticed that I mentioned that the Kuki family for many generations had separated themselves from their family’s martial art of Kukishin Ryu.

For reasons unknown at this time, the great Daimyo Lord Kuki Takanao (九鬼 隆直), broke with the Kuki family tradition and studied the Kito Ryu school of Jujutsu (起倒流柔術) with 4th generation master Takino Yugen (滝野遊軒).

The reasons may have to do with the following…
Kuki Takanao was actually born as, the 11th son of Matsudaira Nobusada and later adopted by Kuki Takatsune to be his heir. So, by blood, he was not a true Kuki family member and most likely may have brought this tradition of Kito Ryu Jujutsu into the family with him when he was adopted in 1696 at approximately 9 years old. In 1698, just two years later, Takatsune dies and Takanao takes over his adoptive father’s position as Daimyo. When he was just 11 years old he started to rule the Tanba Ayabe domain as a man.

He continued to practice the Kito Ryu until his death and passed the school on within the Kuki family as a tradition from that point on. Even though he was a great lord, he also had great humility and became one of the top masters of the school.

Looking at the picture of the Kuki family headmaster lineage, the yellow boxes are the generations of Kuki family masters that did not practice Kukishin Ryu. They practiced Kito Ryu but from what I understand the Bojutsu and Hanbojutsu of the Kuki family had been retained and you can see its influence on the Kito Ryu’s traditional Bojutsu dancing called “Bo no Te”.
(Please see the video clips)


The red box is Kuki Takaharu, he was the first Kuki family member to try to bring back the traditional family martial arts of the Kukishin Ryu. He recruited Takamatsu Sensei to lead the group of Shihan that was teaching. Later Takamatsu Sensei was to walk away from the organization of his own accord.

The green box is Kuki Takahiro, Takaharu’s son who died very young in WW2 at approximately 22 years old. This was the end of the Kuki family’s involvement with the martial arts. Due to the great loss of their young Takahiro in WW2, the family vowed to work towards world peace and concentrate solely on the spiritual side of their family traditions, namely the administration of the grand Kumano Shrine.

Kitō-ryū (起倒流) is a traditional school of Japanese jujutsu. Its syllabus comprises atemi-waza (striking techniques), nage-waza (throwing techniques), kansetsu-waza (joint locking techniques) and shime-waza (choking techniques). The style is focused on throws and sweeps, and many of these techniques are designed to be performed while in full armor.

Kitō Ryū is translated as “the school of the rise and fall.” It uses principles such as “kuzushi no ri” or “breaking of balance” now associated with modern judo.

Jigoro Kano trained in Kitō-ryū and derived some of the principles that were to form the basis of modern judo from this style. Judo’s Koshiki-no-kata is based on Kitō-ryū and since Kano Jigoro received the Kitō-ryū densho from his Sensei, Judo is considered the current Kitō-ryū official successor.

I have also included the text of the Omote Gata of the Kito Ryu as it was passed on within the Kuki family.


Sean Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo

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Searching for Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu

From Blog – Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo 武神館國際連光明道場 by bkronline

40387407_1732831433496398_4280024864259047424_oToda Gosuke is historically recorded as working in the Oniwaban intelligence agency as well as being a head falconer for the Shogun.

We can see his name alongside that of a Hattori family member in marriage and divorce cases held internally within the super-secret spy group.

The members of the Oniwaban were not allowed to intermingle with people outside of the group so records for things such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, etc. were all handled internally within the Oniwaban. This is indisputable proof that Toda Gosuke was at least involved with known members of the Oniwaban.

These men (and women) of the Oniwaban were direct descendants of the Iga (Togakure), Koga and Kishu ninja. Positions in the Oniwaban and Onmitsu were almost always hereditary.

Toda Hisajiro (our Shinryuken), later took over the head falconer position for his father, Toda Gosuke, until the end of the Bakufu government.

Based on the records left behind by Katsu Kaishu, what we do know about Hisajiro for a fact is that he served as head falconer to the Shogun and he was also a swordsmanship professor at the Kobusho from the time that it opened until 1858 when he resigned for mysterious reasons. Reasons I will discuss in more detail in my upcoming book “Hidden Lineage”.

I have found quite a bit of evidence implicating that Hisajiro, Gosuke’s son, was also working closely with the Oniwaban and Onmistu secret service groups serving the Shogunate.
The most interesting thing is that after Hisajiro’s role at the Kobusho as sword instructor, his trail goes dead. Except for this (pic) from the Tokugawa Chronicles (續徳川實紀: 第4篇 経済雑誌社, 1906, P. 1038), This page records that on December 4th, 1861:

Toda Gosuke – GREEN BOX
(Head Falconer at the time and Hisajiro’s father)
Received 3 pieces of gold from the Shogun

Toda Hisajiro – YELLOW BOX
(Head Falconer’s apprentice, son of Gosuke)
Was issued 2 sets of Jifuku (時服) or clothing gifts from the Shogun in the summer and winter seasons.

Mukai Shogen – RED BOX
(Ship Captain at the time, Born as Toda Kinzaburo, Gosuke’s 2nd son and brother to Hisajiro, 23 years old at the time of this record)
Received 2 pieces of gold and issued 2 sets of Jifuku (時服) or clothing gifts from the Shogun in the summer and winter seasons.

This means that in 1861, almost 3 years after leaving the Kobusho as a swordsmanship professor, Toda Hisajiro was still serving the Shogun in Edo as the head falconer.

But soon after this a multi-year manhunt known as the Ansei Purge during which the Tokugawa shogunate imprisoned, executed, or exiled those who did not support its authority and foreign trade policies took place. This movement’s leader was Chief Elder Ii Naosuke, and his enforcer was no other than Matsudaira Noriyasu (Toda Hisajiro’s sponsor to the Kobusho).

In 1860 Ii Naosuke was assassinated for his role in the purge and his stance towards opening up Japan to trade.

From this time Noriyasu is said to have left Edo in fear of his life and laid low until his death. We never hear of Hisajiro again in the public record. Could this be the same reason that Toda laid low??? Out of fear of being assassinated like Ii Naosuke.

If Noriyasu was Naosuke’s Ansei Purge enforcer and Toda was serving Noriyasu…it seems logical to think he may have needed to hide.

Togakure Ryu oral tradition says that after leaving the Kobusho, Shinryuken never took up another official position in the government.

I believe Toda Hisajiro left Edo with the Kuki family when Kuki Takahiro resigned from the Kobusho as Director in 1861.

Immediately after this the Kuki family and the Ayabe Han (Along with the Toda) switched sides and supported the emperor and his new imperial army.

Due to the transition of power from the Shogun to the Emperor, on the 4th of July the following year, the Shogun’s Navy was officially dissolved.

Mukai Masayoshi (Toda Kinzaburo) was quickly recruited along with Katsu Kaishu to head up the Emperor’s newly opened Imperial Military Academy (軍艦操練所). This goes a long way to explain why Takamatsu Sensei said that Toda Shinryuken (Hisajiro) had a close relationship to Katsu Kaishu and the two others of the famous triad known as the “Bakumatsu no Sanshu” (幕末の三舟).

Over time Masayoshi left the Imperial Navy and joined the Imperial Army and served as an “Otsukaiban” (御使番) and as an infantry magistrate.

Katsu Kaishu went on to continue to run the training at the Imperial Military Academy.

The “Otsukaiban” were advance scouts and messengers on the battlefield so obviously, some ninja skills learned from father (Toda Gosuke II) would come in very useful here.

As an Imperial Infantry Magistrate, he is recorded as Mukai Buzen no Kami (向井豊前守), a title awarded to him in May of 1865. On October 23rd of 1867, he was again promoted and given the title and rank, Mukai Izunokami (向井伊豆守).

In 1868 he left the Army and conceded his family naval traditions over to his adoptive father’s 2nd eldest son, Mukai Masayasu (向井正養). As of April 1st, 1868, he became a regular citizen of modern Japan and again changed his name to Mukai Akimura (向井秋村).

He moved to Shizuoka and cleared some land to plant tea but it failed to cause him to move to the Port of Shimoda. There he taught students from Meiji Gakuin (University) swimming in the summer. From 1876 he spent the rest of his life as a substitute judge at the Shimoda courthouse.

Toda Kinzaburo died March 24th, 1906 at the age of 68.

Could Toda Hisajiro’s (Shinryuken) grave be near his brothers???…

Still digging for more…

Was Odysseus in Dubai?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

dubaisundown - Edited
After two weeks in Tōkyō, I am now giving a few classes here in Dubai. The group of Bujinkan UAE, led by Anjaan is doing well, and new faces have appeared on the mats. The beauty of this training group is that it changes a lot as people come to work in Dubai for a limited time. Also, it is a melting pot of nationalities from the Middle-east, to Asia, Europe, and the Americas. They should call it the “Babbel dōjō!”

I’m often travelling to Dubai when I’m back from Japan or India. I love to stop here for a few classes when I can. However, my post today is not about Dubai, but about how wrong we can be as a result of expectations and overconfidence.

We know the tale of Odysseus coming back from the Trojan war. And his neverending 10-year trip back home to Ithaca. (1) During his adventures, Odysseus had to pass the dangerous Strait of Messina (Sicily). The legend said that two sea monsters the protected it: Charybdis and Scylla. (2) (3)

I was sad to leave Japan but happy to get out of the deadly heat wave. Training on this trip was more demanding and resembled a sauna experience. Naively, I thought that the Dubai heat would be drier. I was wrong! Like Odysseus, I went from one heat monster into another one.

The same lack of awareness or discernment is common when we train. In Budō, we call these “sea monsters”: expectations, and over-confidence. In Mutō Dori, expectations are wrong because there is no technique, thus nothing to expect. Moreover, if you are overconfident in your abilities, the wake-up call can be painful.
dubaiheatDo not expect anything, but be prepared for everything.

Speaking with Anjaan yesterday, he said, “this is like mixing the Dunning-Kruger effect with Murphy’s law!” That is so true!

“In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.” (4) Murphy’s law needs no explanation. (5)

On Expectations
Before I left Tōkyō, Anjaan wrote that many students are on holidays. However, yesterday thirteen participants joined this first class. So that was unexpected. Do what to do to the best of your possibilities even if you are alone. Excellence doesn’t need an audience!
On Overconfidence
At the Bujinkan UAE dōjō, I did my best to share what Sensei did in Japan, but I couldn’t. Because I understood what he did, I presumably thought I could do it. I was wrong.
An extended period of maturation is necessary to transfer new knowledge from the brain to the body. A few months are needed, at least, to get that in my taijutsu, if I can ever incorporate it.

Expectations and Overconfidence are not the proper Mutō Dori.

In the Bujinkan, we learn that failure is always Ok. When I took off from Narita, I knew that it would not be easy. The oracle told Odysseus, before leaving, that his return trip would take years. So, both Odysseus and I knew our fate before leaving (except that I didn’t need an oracle).

At the Bujinkan UAE dōjō yesterday, I was not “expecting” to “have it,” but I tried it anyway. There was no surprise; it was like “Banpen Fugyō” of the Gyokko Ryū. Hatsumi sensei with his Mutō Dori prepares us for it! Be always ready and never surprised!

On a side note and between you and me, Odysseus didn’t make it to Dubai. The Suez canal was not built yet, and I’m not sure that the beautiful Dubai existed yet. (6)

6. I read that a “Suez canal alternative” existed during Greek and Roman times. Naval exchanges linked East and West through the oceans. In Cairo, a canal connected the Nile to the Red Sea. The Egyptians called it “the customs’ canal” for logical reasons. Since then, the canal doesn’t exist anymore. But I read that, in Cairo today, you can still see a greenish line caused by higher humidity in the soil. The green line is perpendicular to the Nile and heads towards the Red Sea. But, our friend Odysseus would have needed another ten years to go to Dubai and go back home.
PS: sorry for the picture. 🙂
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Good Or Bad, Keep Laughing!

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Only 40 participants yesterday night at Sōke’s class. We had so much space to train that the Dōjō felt empty.
It was my last class for this trip, and Sensei taught control with taijutsu, hanbō, knife, sword, and bō.

He insisted again on the importance of control being the theme for this year practice. Controlling is beyond action. At the beginning of the class, he said that “It’s not about taking or not taking, it’s about control.” When we train, we try to copy his movements and do not focus enough on the invisible aspects of what he does. By copying the visible, we cannot grasp the subtle essence of the control. Often he will repeat the same action a few times, but he will adjust it depending on how his partner reacts. Even though we see the different movements, we only do one of his many variations.

When this happens, we tend to forget that control is not about a given technique. About Mutō Dori technique, he said, “I’m not avoiding, I’m just controlling.”

We also trained with two swords. Sensei blocked and controlled the sword of Uke, then swept it away. The sweep action was done by one body movement. This body flow creating a whiplash effect. After letting us try it a few times, he said that “I’m not spinning the sword but going with the flow. It is the body and not the sword that controls the attack.” A whole body movement is the only way to get this. To do that, keep your arms close to the torso and move the body.

Alex Meehan from Ireland was training next to me. He told me that some physiotherapist watched some videos by Sensei. This therapist doesn’t train martial arts at all. But after watching a few clips, he said, “this man [Sōke] is amazing. He has the rare ability to move each part of his body independent of the rest.”

This comment from an outsider is fascinating. We are used to seeing Sōke move the way he does. Because of habit, this prominent aspect of his body movement is so natural to us that we don’t see it anymore. Moving one part of the body, while being fully relaxed in the rest, is what makes the Bujinkan a fantastic martial art.

Unfortunately our insistence in “doing a waza,” doesn’t allow this to happen. If we want to move like Sensei one day, we have to train this.

The “nonchalance” of Sensei’s body, is how he is able to control us. He is not fighting (Tatakai wa Janai) but he is not avoiding either (Yokeru Janai). He said, “I’m teaching all aspects of control, not how to attack.” Control is a complex ability in which our actions can “fool” Uke without the mind even trying to. It is not a decision put into motion, it is a natural body attitude. To reach this, we need to train more, and for a long time.

This is why we fail so often. And this is good. Failing a lot on the mats is the only way to get it right, the day we will need it. In training, there is no right or wrong, only learning. We do our best and fail until we succeed. This is the “fake it, until you have it” principle.

In any case, good or bad, we have to be happy to train.

During the class, Sensei took the knife from Tezuka san and asked him to explain what he had felt. Tezuka san was going to speak when Sensei threw the knife at him. Still caught in his thoughts, he grabbed the knife. He was not watching and was surprised to see it in his hand. Sensei laughed and said, “It is essential to laugh whether it is good or bad.”

Sensei was in an excellent mood, and we laughed a lot. That was a memorable Bujinkan moment. I’m leaving today with this in mind, and I cannot wait to be back in a few months to continue my training with him.

“Good Or Bad, Keep Laughing!” and be happy!


I will be back in November 2018 for Sensei’s birthday. Thank you for reading my posts,  I hope they help you. Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments. I hope to meet you on the mats one day, in Japan or during a seminar.

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Move Right Instead Of Left

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Nagato sensei always surprises me by moving his legs reverse to what I am used to doing with Noguchi sensei.
Each time I repeat his movements I have to think hard not to move wrong.
I was training with Martin from France (Naka Ima Dōjō, Lyon), he was Nagato’s “meatbag” of the day. (2) And as he trained a lot with me over the past years, he has acquired the wrong footwork to train with Nagato Sensei. Both, we had a difficult time doing the correct first step when receiving the attack. 
When Nagato sensei receives an attack, he steps backwards with the right foot. Then again sideways with the same leg. This creates a space in which he takes Uke’s balance in a natural manner. The distance created in this way, allows him to protect his body from the other fist and to dodge any second attack. Also, it prevents the attacker to kick immediately as Uke must first maintain his balance. A simple movement like that is why each class in Japan is important. Too often we keep doing the same moves, In fact, it is demanding to change our habits. Do not forget that coming to Japan is not a holiday. It is a time to rethink your taijutsu.
Humans are reluctant to change, we know it. You need to put your ego aside to get new ways to train. Coming to Japan is a chance to improve your taijutsu as a whole. I wrote many times about how boring some classes may be if you don’t try to do what the teacher is asking. When you are capable of “opening your eyes”, you discover a lot more than if you only come for an “exotic experience”.
The classes with Nagato sensei, Noguchi sensei and Senō sensei, are a perfect example of how you can learn from easy techniques. When the Japanese Shihan do a technique, it always looks simple. But when you try to copy what they want you to do, the simplicity vanishes and you find yourself lost on the mats.
During the break, Nagato sensei repeated what Hatsumi Sensei keeps saying. “at the Mutō Dori level, there is no technique.” Each time we want to do a technique we are trapped in our mind, and our body is stuck as a consequence. Apply the Muishiki concept. (2)
Trying to reproduce consciously the technique, is a paradox. How can you move “unconsciously” when you want to copy a technique. But still, it is the way to go. These conscious movements will become unconscious. But only when timing, angling and body flow are good.
My advice, after this class. Try to reverse your steps (left to right or right to left) in your next training. Whichever leg you use to be moving first, change it, and move the other one instead. You will discover a new facet of your taijutsu, hidden in plain sight.  
Hatsumi Sensei said once that Budō is the art of making the invisible, visible. Do that, and some invisible side of your taijutsu will come to light!
The Japanese Shihan have been training with Sensei more than any of us. Those great teachers were not good at the beginning. If they are good today, it is because they kept going and remodelling their certitudes into new ones. We call that progress. If you don’t progress, you stagnate.
Do the same and spread your wings. Budō is endless, it only ends when you die.
And remember, in your next class, to move the right leg instead of the left leg.
Note to Koi ALL ACCESS members: You can see some of the movements we trained on http://www.koimartialart.com in the “Dōjō: Tips and Tricks” section. HERE
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